Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘sports’

throw ball

There has been an important recognition in schools, particularly at the junior grades, that we need to be doing more to keep kids active.  In British Columbia Action Schools BC have been leaders in this effort.  They are, in part:

a best practices whole-school model designed to assist elementary and middle schools in creating and implementing individualized action plans to promote healthy living while achieving academic outcomes and supporting comprehensive school health.

Daily physical activity is a regular part of schools and “action breaks”, among other strategies, are regularly employed. All of these physical activity initiatives are popular with educators, and they are also supported by research in: Spark – The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey.  The good news is — it may be just working. Last week the Globe & Mail reported on a recent US study that teen obesity rates could be leveling off and young people may be doing more exercise. This is all excellent news.

But, back to my question — can they throw a ball?

With all of our efforts focussed toward increasing physical activity, some are lamenting the”sports” part of the physical activity is taking a backseat.  From baseball to soccer, basketball to tennis, schools are now seen less as places for young people to acquire sports-specific skills and that we are turning, instead, to the community for the development of sport-specific skills.  Of course, community sports are nothing new, but “school” sports like volleyball and basketball were, only a generation ago, exclusive to schools and are now taught at younger ages primarily in the community.  As well, groups like KidSport help bridge the financial barrier for some families when kids can’t participate in community sports.  Still, some will argue that sports aren’t a necessary part of our school system, but I think most would agree that the fundamental skills of running, jumping and throwing a ball are core skills we want for all young people. Canadian Sport for Life describes this in its Long Term Athlete Development Plan.

So, looking at our elementary schools, one key challenge is the lack of teacher training for sports skills. PE specialist teachers are exceptionally rare in the province and teachers either have to teach their own PE classes or swap with another staff member (e.g. Teacher A takes Teacher B’s art class while Teacher B takes Teacher A’s PE class).  Without the training, many elementary PE classes are high on activity but not so high on skills-acquisition.

Our district is part of a program trying to change this and is investing and partnering in programs that support physical literacy.  Diane Nelson, who is the Principal-lead on our Sports Academy Programs at secondary, is working with others in Metro Vancouver on a program partnering our Grades K-3 teachers with coaches who have strong skills in teaching sports-specific skills.  The three-lesson progression helps both teacher and students.   Chartwell Elementary Principal, Aron Campbell, recently blogged about the program, Physical Literacy:  The Other 3 R’s . . . Running, Jumping and Throwing.  And, over the course of the year, our K-3 teachers will have the opportunity to work side-by-side with Jesse Symons who is a head coach / teacher in the district’s Premier Soccer Academy. To quote from Aron’s blog:

Although some of the basic skills such as walking, running, jumping, hopping, throwing and catching may seem natural or innate in children, for many kids, this is not the case. Developing basic “Physical Literacy” ​is critical for kids to acquire in order to build an ongoing sense of athletic confidence, as they are exposed to more and more opportunities to be active and involved in sport throughout their years at school and beyond.  Whether it is organized soccer, t-ball, or games in a PE class or at recess, a firm grasp in ‘physical literacy provides the motivation that can be invaluable for kids in the future development of self-esteem and the pursuit of a physically active lifestyle.

And once students have these core skills at the primary level, it is a goal for our intermediate classrooms to continue the partnership with local sports organizations. It is not a new idea, but part of a systemic plan for elementary schools to partner with the local soccer clubs or tennis organizations in offering programs to students.  It is a win-win opportunity since most community sports organizations are struggling to attract young people and are facing declining numbers; by partnering with our schools, they can offer their expertise to all students and can ignite the passion of a student who will pick the sport up in the community. To me, it is an approach that has some real opportunities and we should try to tap into it.

It is absolutely important to recognize the great work being done to help our kids to become healthier, whether it is eating better or being more active. While some (albeit mostly south of the border) were recently bemoaning the narrowing of the curriculum that saw a reduction in physical activity, there is a realization young people being active is a key part of improving student success.

That said, the time is right to invest in sports skills for all young people in schools — not only because we are taking on the training of the next Olympians, but because these skills are also life skills and they are best learned at a young age as they expose students to sports and games they might not otherwise try. And, we can’t solely rely on the community for them.

Thanks to Diane Nelson, District Principal Sports Academies and the driving force in our district behind this work, and to viasport for their financial support.

Read Full Post »

WILL FERRELL AND ELLIOTT CHO

Some of the same thinking leading education transformation in our schools is also changing the thinking around community and school sports. Debates over keeping score at a soccer game with 10-year-olds are similar to discussions on whether we should be giving Grade 4 students letter grades. And, seemingly, there is a growing movement to move past the era of the uber-zealous sports parent.

A recent column from Lawrie Johns, Sport  Parents Must Have Realistic Expectations is an excellent read.   Of course, Lawrie has a lot of credibility on this topic with me.  Both his boys, now in their early 30s, are very well-adjusted young men, and I had the opportunity to teach and coach a little bit of basketball to his younger son, Brian, who also represented Canada at the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympics in swimming.  This dad knows what it is like to raise a child who has become an elite athlete.  Lawrie advises:

Some suggestions for parents: No after practice/game interrogation.  Understand the rules of the sport – leave the officiating to trained officials – better still – become one!  Cheer on efforts BY ALL not just yours.   Learn about sport nutrition and hydration.  Learn about injuries – they are part of sport (unfortunately) but how to support the athlete though an injury is crucial.

Lastly – Have Fun!

It makes sense that parents need to be educated partners in their child’s sports, as in their child’s schooling. Another great source for information along the same theme is the Steve Nash Youth Basketball Coaches Blog.   To quote a recent post:

Those five words – “the courage to be patient” – give a picture of the great potential  . . .  and at the same time highlight the problems that exist in the reality of an ultra-competitive youth sports environment.  More specifically, having the “courage to be patient” seems to involve doing four very difficult things, and the failure to do any one of these four things  (resisting external pressure, controlling internal desire, being a great teacher, maintaining faith) may explain the disconnect between potential and reality.

So,  as families head back to the soccer fields and hockey rinks in the community, to the cross-country races, school volleyball courts and football fields in the fall, hopefully, times are indeed changing.  Competition is awesome! But we know better than even a decade ago about how to ensure our kids have good experiences that will last a lifetime and not be burned out or turned off of sports by age 12. Lawrie’s column offers this  perspective:

There are about 750 NHLers today out of hundreds of thousands boys playing hockey in this country.

There were 31 swimmers on the national team in London – out of over 100,000 who compete through clubs in Canada. There were 12 on the women’s Olympic basketball team – over 150,000 girls play basketball. Eighteen players on our bronze medal women’s soccer team – over 500,000 girls play youth soccer.

In sports, like in the classroom, we want our kids to work toward big dreams, but we also want some perspective.  I have a great passion for sports.  School sports adds richness to the culture of our schools; community sports bring people together and we (parents and kids) learn wonderful lessons through our participation.

We need to ensure that sports are not overrun by a culture of early specialization, private elite programs and self-focused athletes and parents who instill an NHL or Bust attitude in our programs.  We need to reverse the trend of fewer young people participating in organized sports and to also ensure we have opportunities for kids, with varied sport skills, to continue playing. We want our passionate athletic sons and daughters not to lose their passion about their sport as they get older.

There is nothing quite like the fun of sports — that is the whole point of it. As Tim Elmore suggested in a recent post, the most powerful six words we can say to a child involved in sports, ” I love to watch you play.”

Read Full Post »

front-cover

Len Corben is very well-known on the North Shore for his writing and commitment to athletics; a commitment that includes 31 years as the coordinator for North Shore Secondary School athletics, and as an accomplished writer with his Instant Replay stories that regularly appear in the North Shore Outlook.  Having previously enjoyed his first book, an anthology of his newspaper features, it was great to catch up with Len and also read his latest book based on hours of research and interviews with Ernie Kershaw: The Pitching Professor:  The Life & Times of Ernie Kershaw.

The book was of particular interest to me as Ernie Kershaw began his teaching career at West Vancouver Secondary School at about the time my grandfather, Charles Kennedy, was teaching at the school in the late 1930s. And, personally, as a history teacher and huge baseball fan (Field of Dreams is in my all-time top three movies), it’s difficult to imagine anything more appealing than a slice of local history with a backdrop of education filled with baseball stories.

The story starts with Ernie Kershaw’s birth on October 6, 1909, and as he describes it in the book, “My birth was premature at seven months and I started my career at two-and-a-half to three pounds in a shoe box in the warming oven of our Gurney-Oxford kitchen range, being for some time fed partly with honey and water via an eye dropper.”   With Spanish influenza and typhoid fever also part of his childhood experiences, Kershaw went on to play semi-professional baseball for the Vancouver Capilanos from 1939-41 and again in 1946 after serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II.

Kershaw was playing baseball at the same time as many of history’s most storied individuals, and the book links to Babe Ruth and others, while also telling the stories of the grassroots stars in Vancouver, in the era before Larry Walker and Justin Morneau.  Of course, Kershaw’s “big curveball and humming fastball” are also highlighted from his 4-0 five-hitter in his pro debut against the Yakima Pippins at Athletic Park on Hemlock Street, to a post-war performance described by Province columnist, Ken McConnell: ” Kershaw came back from the war fat and sassy.  He has a sweeping curveball that even [umpire] Amby Moran seemed to have difficulty following and his fast one sings as it burst across the plate.”

It was not an era of “just” being a baseball player — Kershaw was also a teacher.

Kershaw says of his teaching experience “In September 1936, I found myself back in the classroom” where he taught until 1941 and then again after the war from 1945-1973.   The book overlays Kershaw’s stories of West Vancouver with stories of many other well-known figures in West Vancouver including Dick Wright, Bill Nicol and Brian Upson.  All well-known names who come to life in Kershaw’s stories and through Corben’s words.  The stories also tell of a teacher making sense out of algebra for more than three decades of West Vancouver students – so proud of their accomplishments – he shares a real pay-it-forward legacy.

Notable for his teaching and his baseball, Kershaw also acknowledges he is notable for his longevity (the story is subtitled - One of Professional Baseball’s Oldest Living Former Players):

My first 50 years were quite unusual and interesting because of the variety of my interests and activities in a period which included a major epidemic, two great wars, several booms and depressions and the rise and collapse of many regimes and nations.  By sheer chance, I found myself at some critical places at historically important times.  As a result, I met many famous and talented people in various fields and from many countries.

Almost a Forrest Gump style story.

Ernie Kershaw died on February 13, 2012 at the age of 102.  In a story in the book, relayed by his son Ian, “When it was close to Dad’s time,” Ian recounted, “I said to him ‘Dad, I guess this is the bottom of the ninth for you.’  He replied, ‘It’s more like the bottom of the 12th.'”

Corben’s book and Kershaw’s story are a wonderful window into our recent history — a story about baseball and a whole lot more for those interested in sport, history, education and community — a really wonderful read.

To order a copy of the book or for more information, contact Len Corben.

Read Full Post »

High school students sampling different sports each season, appears to be a diminishing reality.  Many may know the stories of athletes like Steve Nash and Wayne Gretzky, who played a number of sports as a youth, and specialized in a sport later in life. But, when we look to our high school athletes today, it seems more are focusing on specific sports at a younger age, and this trend is one that is dramatically changing our high school sports. Recently, Cam Cole wrote an excellent piece around this in the Vancouver Sun about physical literacy and the decline in kids sports.

Of course, at its core, this is not really a school issue; it is far broader than that. There is an intersection of school and community in almost every sport today. While less than a decade ago there were often lines between ‘school sports’ (e.g. volleyball, basketball, rugby) and ‘community sports’ (soccer, hockey, baseball) the lines have blurred.  Today, almost every sport is a 12-month sport. For some sports like hockey, this is almost 100 per cent in community; for others like basketball, it is more evenly split between school and the community.  Many sports have complete organizations in schools and the community.

Personally, I think something is being lost in early sports specialization.   A recent report from Matthew Bridge and Martin Toms out of the United Kingdom: “The specializing or sampling debate:  a retrospective analysis of adolescent sports participation in the UK” tends to agree. The report indicates  “individuals who competed in three sports aged 11, 13, and 15 were significantly more likely to compete at a national compared with club standard between the ages of 16 and 18 than those who practised only one sport.”   This runs counter to what many athletes, coaches and parents seem to believe, and who go all-in on a sport from a very young age.

Another phenomena influencing multi-sport, high school athletics is the increased emergence of paid coaches in community programs.  While still largely supported by volunteer staff, parents and community members, most major community sporting clubs have some paid staff, who are obviously invested in retaining athletes for their livelihood.  When it was solely a system of volunteers, the parent who coached soccer in the fall often helped coach the school basketball team in the winter, as well as the softball team in the spring.  Paid community coaches are often less likely to see their athletes sample school sports.

There is also a major overlap and growing competition between school and non-school sporting opportunities (in many ways, it follows the non-profit versus profit paradigm).  Club programs run all year and coaches will often discourage “their” athletes (the issue of  coaches and so-called “athlete ownership” is also very infuriating)  from participating on school teams outside of their sport. So, the community soccer coach doesn’t want a player to play volleyball for the school, because they want to promote sport specialization.

As a parent, along with my kids, I do want to have more say in this conversation. I want my kids to have the opportunity to play a range of sports if they want to.  I am less concerned with “development”, which is all the buzz in sports now, and more concerned with the “fun” which should be all the buzz.

I like the advice Stephanie Hauser, a high school athletic director from Wisconsin,  recently shared on the topic of multi-sport athletes at Proactive Coaching:

For Parents:

  • Be the final decision makers on behalf of your kids’ well-being.  This means having to put your foot down and be willing to make the difficult decision to say “no” on behalf of your multi-sport athletic child.  Injury, fatigue and burnout WILL happen if you are not willing to say “no” to some things.  Know when it is the right time to make the decision for your child – don’t automatically give the kids the choice; most will opt to attend everything, not wanting to let any of their coaches down.
  • Be willing to “shut them down” for a time period when you see fatigue or burnout happening.  Last summer, we were seeing the signs of some nagging fatigue injuries with our daughter, and we were struggling as parents with how to best handle the situation.  Then, the best thing for all of us happened – she twisted her ankle at Panther Fitness.  This was the excuse that we needed to shut down for the remaining three weeks of the summer…what a blessing in disguise!! The results were amazing.  Her shin splints went away, her knee and hip pain went away, she had time to hang out with friends, clean her room, read a book, and when volleyball season began three weeks later, she proceeded to have an all-conference season.  The trade-off for her was a refreshed body and mind, rather than a few more weeks of training, and she came back stronger than where she left off.

For Coaches:

  • Let your actions speak louder than your words.  Many coaches say that they support the multi-sport athlete, but it is evident that this is just “lip service” because in reality they are putting undue pressure on these multi-sport athletes to attend everything.  Have regular conversations with these kids, so you will be able to sense when it is time to give them a little more breathing room.  In reality, many of these multi-sport athletes are the most reliable, competitive and naturally athletic kids on your team.  They are the “studs” – let them thrive in their other sports, and then come your sport and thrive there.  I have witnessed this with our own daughter.  There is no doubt that she begins each season looking a bit rusty.  My husband and I call that the “three-sport athlete look.”  Yet, within the first few weeks of the season she not only meets, but exceeds the performance of others who have spent countless hours in the off-season in the gym refining their one-sport skills.  Coaches, spend the off-season time with the athletes that need you the most, those single-sport athletes who may have limited athletic ability.  They really need you to help them fine-tune their skills because they may not have the strong athletic ability to rely on.  This is the opportunity for you to really help them strive to be the best that they can be.
  • Work with other head coaches to coordinate your off-season schedules and regularly talk with them about shared athletes.  NEVER make an athlete feel like they have to choose between one coach and the other, and NEVER discuss or put down that athlete’s other coaches.

For Athletic Directors:

  • Schedule time for head coaches to sit down together to coordinate the summer calendars, open gyms, contact days, and camps in a sincere effort to minimize the number of conflicts and difficult choices that the multi-sport athlete is forced to make.  This will open the communication lines and minimize the frustration between coaches who feel that they are competing for the multi-sport athletes’ time.
  • Communicate the multi-sport athlete philosophy of the athletic department with parents and share with them the things that the athletic department and coaches are doing to support that multi-sport athletes.  Provide multi-sport athlete research, education and data for parents.
  • Manage the outside entities, such as legion baseball, AAU basketball and select soccer.  Work with your coaches to find ways to we get these outside entities to work with the school to help us maintain three-sport athletes.  To do this, you need buy-in from the coaches and the willingness to commit to this effort and be the liaison between school and outside entity.
  • Applaud and honor the multi-sport athlete.  Build recognition opportunities into your athletic award system.  Many of these kids are truly masters of time management, selflessness and self-discipline; and they have a passion for competition.  Additionally, there are those multi-sport athletes with marginal athletic ability that truly just want to participate so that they can be a part of something good.  Reward these kids for their dedication and contribution to your school.

There are a number of challenges currently happening in high school athletics, and I actually think we may have one or more new models developing (more on this in another post), but one value we should return to in school sports, and really — in all sports — is the value of the multi-sport, high school athlete.

Read Full Post »

Each school and school district has their amazing stories about the people who are there, and it is particularly wonderful when those on the outside shine a light on excellence in the system.  While there are many candidates who are deserving of an award, I would like to share the powerful and individual stories of three award winners from our school district; their stories are powerful, but the stories also transcend the winners, and speak to the wonders we see each day in our schools.

Arlene Anderson is a recent winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

I have written a post about Arlene before (here), in describing our technology innovators in classrooms across West Vancouver.  The press release around her Award for Teaching Excellence well describes her as the ”techno-wiz teacher–librarian [who] inspires students and…reinvents [the] school library. If the school is an atom, the library is its nucleus where energy and enthusiasm fuel ideas.”

Arlene is always learning; she has made efforts to be familiar with, and lead, the use of noodle bib to help students create annotated bibliographies, wikis and voice threads. She has led staff in the development of scope and sequence for technology, and in understanding the importance of crediting the correct source, finding the original source of information, as well as understanding how to determine if the source is accurate or not.

She is also a side-by-side teacher with her colleagues, as in working with a science teacher to teach students how to create a wiki, find correct information on the Internet and check sources. In this project, there were five classes: the first group of students wrote out their research on a wiki, the next group checked the sources/accuracy then added information, the third group also checked and added…etc., and when all five classes had spent time working on these wikis, they had created a powerful document on body systems. Each class had a group of students working on each topic.

Arlene models the way for teacher librarians, at the heart of our schools, embracing technology to support students and their learning.

Diane Nelson  has been awarded one of Canada’s Outstanding Principals, as recognized by the Learning Partnership.

Diane is the founder of the West Vancouver School District’s Premier Sport Academies, which include hockey, soccer, tennis, baseball and golf.  Diane is a dedicated, well-respected advocate for today’s youth. Along with her 28 years of experience in education as a teacher and administrator, Diane has obtained her Bachelor of Education, Diploma in Counselling Psychology, and Master’s degree in Educational Administration, all from the University of British Columbia.

In my letter of support for Diane, I wrote:  “In my role as superintendent I receive many accolades for the success of our academy programs. I am often asked what others can do to build these programs. The answer is, they need to clone Diane . . . . Diane’s vision, passion, perseverance, work ethic, and ability to connect to kids, parents and the community are why her programs have been so successful, and why we hear from dozens of families every year that she has changed lives . . . she is leading change in public education.”

I love how Diane has taken her passion for teaching and learning and combined it with her passion for sports.  From an idea, she has built one of the most innovative learning experiences in the province; students and parents regularly rave about how their experiences with Diane have been some of their most powerful schooling experiences.  The letter of support from Hockey Academy parent, Denise Cotton, is further testimony to Diane’s teaching excellence:  “The Premier Hockey Academy developed by Diane has been a life-transforming experience” for her son, who now plays in the Western Hockey League. “Diane Nelson has most definitely made a unique contribution to education in Canada. She is a visionary, developing sports academies that are a perfect blend of academic excellence, personal growth and athletic development. It is no wonder that she has waitlists annually for enrollment in her academies.”

Caulfeild Elementary School received Honourable Mention, for the Ken Spencer Award that focuses on innovation in K-12 education. Caulfeild was selected from well over 100 applications for this recognition.

Caulfeild has been on an intense journey over a very short time. Facing challenges of declining enrollment, and ongoing conversations about its school signature, iDEC was born — a commitment from students, staff and parents to create a school-wide innovative learning experience marrying the best of what we know about good teaching and learning, the student-centric approach of inquiry-based learning, and embracing the technology of the world of today.   iDEC provides a digital environment that supports any technological device and platform.  From Kindergarten to Grade 3, teachers are embedding student ownership into their digital learning, everyday, with the help of Smartboards and iPads. By Grade 4, students will be able to bring their own electronic device into the classroom, and student webpages will serve as a central area for their learning and participation, where they solve problems, are creative, and participate positively in the school community.  With thanks to Principal Brad Lund, the entire staff, and the support of our parent community, Caulfeild Elementary is generating interest around the country for its innovative programming.  When people first engage in the program, what they leave with is an understanding of what “‘power of the people’ can mean — and people are the key to this educational transformation.

I see excellence in the school system everyday.  The stories of Arlene Anderson, Diane Nelson and Caulfeild Elementary School are repeated across the district everyday. Public education in West Vancouver, and across the province is blessed with amazing people committed to doing great things for kids everyday.

Read Full Post »

The Value of School Sports

Photo Credit:  Mike MacNeil, WVSS

There is a rhythm to school sports and secondary school sports are approaching their second of three crescendos in the year.  One has its pinnacle in early December with the conclusion of sports like volleyball and football. Basketball among others play for championships in March and rugby and track-and-field are among those that climax in late May. In February, many schools turn to the basketball playoffs as we approach B.C.’s March Madness.

I don’t spend as much time in gyms as I did even a few years ago when I was often consumed by them — first as a coach and then as a school administrator — but the value I see  in school sports hasn’t changed.  There is a great deal that can be written about what is changing with school sports, and what needs to change, so they remain vibrant parts of our schools (clearly, more posts to come), but this post has a tighter focus.   The photo above, taken at last Friday’s game between West Van Secondary and Sentinel, shows amazing school pride in action.

What do I love about school sports?  They provide a lens through which to see the world.  It is positive values that make sports meaningful.  These values are still alive and well in two ways — the value of school sports, and the values that we hold in school sports.  It is a wonderful ritual that links our school experiences to those of our parents and our kids.

From time to time, I am concerned about athletics and values.  Mostly, I am worried school athletics in the larger community are not valued as they should be.  We often hear about how we need to improve reading, writing and math skills — and the implication is, it’s okay if the arts or athletics fall off.  I sometimes feel like I missed a memo somewhere — are school sports not important anymore?

For many adults, some of our greatest moments in high school came from outside the classroom, at a school drama performance, as part of a school trip and, for many, from school sports.  We also know, absolutely, school sports make an important contribution to the culture, character and definition of our schools.

I have seen, and still see, school sports much like Bill Bradley described in his book Values of the Game.  So many of the qualities of a full and meaningful life are honed on a soccer field, in a gymnasium, or in the pool.  The passion that drives you to compete and better yourself.  The discipline that forces you to maintain a schedule and balance your life.  The selflessness that epitomizes being a great team player.  The respect you develop for each other, teammates, opponents and the games you play.  The perspective and resilience you find by realizing life goes on, even after a big loss, and winning and losing is not only about the score in the game.  The courage you show to triumph over adversity, and the leadership which defines special athletes whose greatest accomplishments are not only about making themselves better, but raising the level of all those around them.

We are lucky to have the model we have for school athletics.  A model built on volunteerism — teachers and other staff coming together with parents and others in the community, to foster not only the growth of school sports, but also the building of life values.  There are few better feelings than when a former athlete sees you some 10 or 20 years after you worked with them, calls you coach and tells you that he or she is now also coaching.  While we can lament there is not more money in athletics, or that we don’t have a paid coaching model like some private schools, or many places in the United States — we do have a model where communities come together and make school sports happen, and often “pay it forward” athletes later in life become coaches to offer others what they once had.

Thanks to everyone in our district — and in all districts — who support our students through athletics, helping our students to sharpen their values.  School sports continue to be a wonderful ritual worth celebrating.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,034 other followers